Ice House – Current conditions

Although no one had the keys to actually go into the Ice House when City Manager Johnson, Inspections Dept. head Butch Simmons and I met on September 6th, there was plenty to see and discuss by looking at the exterior of the structure.  A couple of observations…


It appears that only the front of the building, facing Market Street, is laminated with brick.  As reported to Council, portions of that veneer are indeed falling away but those failures are due to external forces of either nature or man, not a general weakness of the structure.Ice house moisture.jpg

This picture shows what happens with brick when a downspout is allowed to leak onto mortar for many years.  This should have been fixed shortly after we purchased the building if, indeed, the intention was to save it and not allow further deterioration.  Allowing water to seep behind the brick for so long weakened the laminate in this area.  It could very well fall with all of the jack-hammering that the Market Street sidewalk is going to endure during the current streetscape improvement project.

Ice house tree1.jpgThis photo of a cottonwood tree growing out of the side of the building is indicative of additional bad (or no) maintenance on the part of the city.  If I were to attempt to sell a building, one of the first things I would do is remove any and all trees that were growing through it and fix the damage that was caused by them.  A good, strong wind could bring that corner of the Ice House crashing onto the sidewalk.  However, this damage is not due to any inherent structural deficiency of the building – it is due to a friggin’ tree that is growing from inside the building.Rear of icehouse.jpg

There is one additional area on the front of the building where the brick is pulling away and this seems to have been caused by haphazard attachment of utility lines many years ago.  However, the rest of the building’s walls are constructed entirely of brick that is at least three courses thick.  It is not a laminate or ‘skin’.  Except for damage to the rear walls, which occured during the city-contracted demolition of the back 2/3 of the structure, the rest of the brick and mortar is in pretty damn good shape.

According to the person (“I want to remain in the background on this“, he told me) who has submitted an offer to purchase the property, the partial demolition also resulted in “…a twenty foot hole in the roof” which has been left open to the elements for a couple of years causing additional structural damage to building’s interior. 

He commented further on that damage, “If a tree falls on your house and knocks a hole in the roof, one of the first things you would do is go out and buy a tarp to keep the rain out.  That was not done so the building is in far worse shape now than it was when the city bought it.”

Not including the above referenced demolition, the city has spent $10k clearing and securing the building according to Simmons.  This included removing years’ worth of accumulated clutter inside the stucture as well as closing in doors and windows with plywood.

One of the things that originally struck me about the marketability of the building is the fact that all of the exterior brick was painted battleship gray some decades ago.  I was of the opinion that anyone who might renovate the building would want to clean the brick and bring it back to its original appearance.  This would likely entail sandblasting which would do great harm to the existing mortar joints and weaken the walls.

After bringing up this point to Preservation Greensboro’s Benjamin Briggs, he opined that the paint would not necessarily have to be removed to improve the building’s appearance.  ”Not necessarily“, said Briggs, “the ‘grunge look’ is very appealing to many people.  If handled with flair, partially painted brick can be an asset to the building’s appearance.”

There is no question that the Ice House is a mess, but much of the building’s current condition is of our own making.  While I have not yet had the opportunity to inspect the interior of the structure, exterior renovations are going to be expensive – but not prohibitively so.

The current offer for the property that is on the table (a copy of which I will have in my hands later this morning) is, how shall we say, creative.  One of the assumptions represented by the contract is that the city is obligated to take financial responsiblity for damage that has occured to the building under its own watch.  The self-inflicted damage due to neglect is substantial.

More later.

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  1. Posted September 18, 2006 at 9:04 am | Permalink

    How much did the city pay to purchase the building?

  2. Posted September 18, 2006 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    $300,000. But that was for the building as it currently stands plus the part of it that was torn down a couple of years ago plus more land than is currently being offered (the lot extended to Friendly as originally purchased). It was on the market (until December, 05) for $290k – even with all of the damage that has occured since we purchased it.

    Also… only $250k exchanged hands at closing in Aug, 03. $50k was held back for three years pending the possible discovery of site contamination and/or further environmental testing.

    Contamination was identified in January of ’02 however it was never persued after most of the building was torn down, we released the $50k escrow to the seller – on July 1st, 2006.

    More to come, so don’t steal my thunder by asking a bunch of pertinent and logical questions.

6 Trackbacks

  1. [...] David Hoggard’s take on local politics and life in general from Greensboro, NC « Ice House – Current conditions Ice House – a contaminated site with a missed opportunity September 18th 2006 @ 1:00 pm Greensboro Politics, Preservation [...]

  2. By Hogg’s Blog » Ice House - The offer on September 19, 2006 at 2:00 pm

    [...] Now this property has problems.  It sits upon contaminated land.  It abuts a Norfolk Southern mainline which limits the site’s future development.  Two thirds of the structure has been deemed ‘beyond repair’ by your staff and is slated to be demolished for a parking lot for your company’s vehicles.  The remaining structure, although structurally sound, is in need of extensive repair… as a matter of fact, a tree is growing through one of the building’s walls.  [...]

  3. [...] Hell, with such a simplified and biased explanation - an explanation obviously aimed at a 10 year-old’s mentality - I’d have laughed at it, too.  But knowing what I know about the history of our ownership, the condition of the property, and the complex details found in the offer to purchase, the only thing last night’s exchange accomplished was to chap my ass. An aside: For the record, as of my Sept. 6 meeting with Johnson and Simmons at the site, Mitch had not been apprised of the offer.  Simmons explained it to the manager for the first time – in the same simplistic terms – while the three of us were meeting.  Upon hearing Simmons’ explanation, Mitch’s reaction was similar to the Mayor’s. -dhoggard no comments trackback this article comment on this article [...]

  4. [...] There is no mention of it in today’s N&R story headlined “Who pulled the plug on the ice house“, but a big part of what thwarted previous plans to demolish the old building and build 24 new condos in its place might have been the purchase price offered by developer Kevin Jones: $80,000.  We bought the property in its original configuration for $300,000. [...]

  5. [...] “In reality, the building may now be too far gone“, the buyer stated flatly, “but in three years, no one else has come up with a way to solve the many problems involved, save the building, and get the city some of its money back.”  “It’s not a perfect solution, and it may not work“, he confessed, “…but it is a solution, I’d at least like to find out why it won’t work.” [...]

  6. [...] I was trying to find some options to tearing that structure down, I met on the site with City Manager Mitch Johnson and Inspections [...]